- Written by Dimitar Kirkovski
Molecular Stress Physiology
The department focuses on the analysis of the physiological and metabolic responses of crops to abiotic stress and how the knowledge gained from these studies can be employed to enhance the tolerance of such crops to stressful conditions. Translational approaches (from model species to crops, from crop to crop) will form a constitutional basis of the research conducted by the group.
One of the research lines followed by the Department is identification and characterization of genes involved in modulating oxidative stress responses and reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced programmed cell death. Recently, a team lead by Assoc. Prof. Dr. T. Gechev identified a novel plant-specific gene that regulates the tolerance to oxidative and abiotic stresses (Sujeeth et al. 2021). As this gene has homologs in major crops, this finding may have an impact on the management of stress tolerance in crop species and increasing their productivity under unfavorable environmental conditions.
Another research direction studied in the department is a process known as molecular priming: natural products and synthetic chemicals that can protect model and crop plants against abiotic and oxidative stresses through induction of molecular and physiological defense mechanisms (Kerchev et al. 2020). In addition to their stress-protective effect, some of these compounds can also stimulate plant growth. Using an array of “-omics” approaches, including RNA-seq analysis, GC-MS and LC-MS metabolomics, and lipidomics, Dr. Gechev’s team has identified genes, metabolites, and biochemical pathways with a possible role in the molecular priming induced by a biostimulant and is aiming at functionally validating some of these genes Rasul et al. 2021; Staykov et al. 2021; Omidbakhshfard et al. 2020).
Fig. 1. Principle of plant defense activation by priming. Treatment with priming agents (left) induces endogenous plant defense mechanisms (middle), leading to subsequent stress tolerance in the primed plants. Agrochemicals are predominantly applied as a uniform spray solution (broadcast application) that can easily result in chemical waste, excessive carryovers, and damage to the vegetation. In contrast, directed application targets individual plants. Technological advances, such as computer vision and machine learning, make directed application more efficient than ever. Specific spraying of individual plants allows reduction of the dosage that can eliminate up to 90% of the used chemical and mitigate its environmental impact. Another exciting technology that will soon be available to the farmers combines agrochemicals with nanobodies as formulation agents that specifically target leaves or pests, improving retention limiting the input of chemicals for the environment.
A third research focus of Dr. Gechev’s team is the resurrection species Haberlea rhodopensis. This plant is tolerant not only to desiccation but also to other environmental stresses such as long-term darkness and low temperatures. The team studies molecular mechanisms of tolerance to these abiotic stresses, using “-omics” technologyes such as transcriptomics, metabolomics, and lipidome analysis (Durgud et al. 2018).
Kanojia A., Shrestha K.D., Dijkwel P. (2021) Primary metabolic processes as drivers of leaf ageing. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-021-03896-6. (IF 9.261)
Rasul F., Gupta S., Olas J.J., Gechev T., Sujeeth N., Mueller-Roeber B. (2021) Priming with a seaweed extract strongly improves drought tolerance in Arabidopsis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 22: 1469. (IF 5.923)
Staykov N.S., Angelov M., Petrov V., Minkov P., Kanojia A., Guinan K.J., Alseekh S., Fernie A.R., Neerakkal S., Gechev T.S. (2021) An Ascophyllum nodosum-derived biostimulant protects model and crop plants from oxidative stress. Metabolites. 11(1): 24. (4.932)
Faisal M., Gechev Т., Mueller-Roeber B., Dijkwel P. (2020) Putative alternative translation start site-encoding nucleotides of CPR5 regulate growth and resistance. BMC Plant Biology 20(1):295. (IF 4.215)
Gechev T., Georgiev M.I., Fernie A. (2020) PlantaSyst: Teaming-up for systems biology and biotechnology. Trends in Plant Science. 25(7): 621-624. (IF 18.313)
Gechev T., Petrov V. (2020) Reactive oxygen species and abiotic stress in plants. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21: 7433. (IF 5.923)
Kanojia A., Gupta S., Benina M., Fernie A., Mueller-Roeber B., Gechev T., Dijkwel P. (2020) Developmentally controlled changes during Arabidopsis leaf development indicate causes for loss of stress tolerance with age. Journal of Experimental Botany. 71: 6340–6354. (IF 6.992)
Kerchev P., van der Meer T., Sujeeth S., Verlee A., Stevens C.V., Van Breusegem F., Gechev T. (2020) Molecular priming as an approach to induce tolerance against abiotic and oxidative stresses in crop plants. Biotechnology Advances. 40: 107503. (IF 14.227)
Lyall R., Gechev T. (2020) Multi-omics insights into the evolution of angiosperm resurrection plants. Annual Plant Reviews Online. 3(1): 77-110.
Lyall R., Nikoloski Z., Gechev, T. (2020) Comparative analysis of ROS network genes in extremophile eukaryotes. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21: 9131. (IF 5.923)
Omidbakhshfard M.A., Sujeeth N., Gupta S., Omranian N., Guinan K.J., Brotman Y., Nikoloski Z., Fernie A., Mueller-Roeber B., Gechev T. (2020) A biostimulant obtained from the seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum protects Arabidopsis thaliana from severe oxidative stress. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21(2): 1–26. (IF 5.923)
Sujeeth N., Mehterov N., Gupta S., Qureshi M.K., Fischer A., Proost S., Omidbakhshfard M.A., Obata T., Benina M., Staykov N., Balazadeh S., Walther D., Fernie A.R., Mueller-Roeber B., Hille J., Gechev T.S. (2020) A novel seed plants gene regulates oxidative stress tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 77: 705–718. (IF 9.261)
Dong Y., Gupta S., Sievers R., Wargent J., Wheeler D., Putterill J., Macknight R., Gechev T., Mueller-Roeber B., Dijkwel P. (2019) Genome draft of the Arabidopsis relative Pachycladon cheesemanii reveals novel strategies to tolerate New Zealand’s high Ultraviolet B radiation environment. BMC Genomics. 20(1): 838. (IF 3.501)
Gupta S., Dong Y., Dijkwel P., Mueller-Roeber B., Gechev T. (2019) Genome-wide analysis of ROS antioxidant genes in resurrection species suggest an involvement of distinct ROS detoxification systems during desiccation. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 20(12): 3101. (IF 4.183)
Durgud M., Gupta S., Ivanov I., Omidbakhshfard A., Benina M., Alseekh A., Staykov N., Hauen-stein M., Dijkwel P.P., Hortensteiner S., Toneva V., Brotman Y., Fernie A.R., Mueller-Roeber B., Gechev T. (2018) Molecular mechanisms preventing senescence in response to prolonged darkness in a desiccation–tolerant plant. Plant Physiology. 177(3):1319–1338. (IF 6.305)
Petrov, V., Qureshi, M. K., Hille, J., Gechev, T. (2018) Occurrence, biochemistry and biological effects of host-selective plant mycotoxins. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 112:251–264. (IF 3.775)